Gareth Walker, the Championship correspondent of Rugby League Express, writes about the return of Jamie Rooney to semi-professional Rugby League…
It’s great to see Jamie Rooney back in the professional game after being coaxed out of retirement by Gateshead Thunder.
Rooney has been a key figure at this level of the sport, either side of a richly deserved stint in Super League with Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.
For a while Rooney seemed like the Liam Fin of his time, racking up points constantly for Featherstone and patiently biding his time for a top flight chance.
A loan spell at Castleford aside, that eluded him until 2003, when the Wildcats took him on.
He went on to spend seven seasons at Wakefield, scoring over 900 Super League points in his 120 appearances, including an impressive 60 tries.
During that time he earned international recognition with England, at a time when Great Britain were still playing.
Midway through 2009 he dropped back down to the part-time ranks again, and in that same season helped guide Barrow Raiders to a memorable 26-18 Grand Final win over Halifax, in front of a crowd of 11,398 at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
After a brief spell at South Wales Scorpions he joined Whitehaven, where he was a guiding influence as the club regained its Championship status.
Earlier this year he announced his retirement from the sport, and chose instead to focus on coaching Featherstone Lions, who at the time of writing are top of National Conference Division Three having won their first eight games.
But by his own admission, Rooney – still just 34 – was getting itchy feet about playing again.
His joint coach at Featherstone Lions is Hull KR hooker Keal Carlile, and when he relayed Rooney’s thoughts back to Robins coaching staff member and Gateshead boss Stanley Gene, the Papua New Guinean legend was quick to move.
Rooney has agreed terms with Thunder for the remainder of the season, and with the side already having shown marked improvement in recent weeks, he should be a perfect fit for a predominantly young squad.
“They have some good young players who need an old head to guide them around the field,” Rooney told League Express on Monday.
“If I can do that, then I’m sure the victories will start coming.”
Rooney is expected to make his Gateshead debut against one of his former clubs South Wales Scorpions this weekend, with Thunder looking for a second win of the season.
With Rooney in their ranks, their prospects of making the play-offs have increased significantly, which should add an extra dimension to an already fascinating Kingstone Press Championship One this season.